Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Journey Back Home

Slept in a little at Esmeldin's.  His family is so cute.  A beautiful wife and four precious children.

This morning we sat in the kitchen for awhile, then Omar and I walked to change money at a nearby bank.  I need to get pesos for our taxi ride.

Got ready, read on their porch and then Orlando the taxi driver came to pick us up to head to the airport.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Last Full Day

No sleep last night.  Stayed up too late since it was my last night.

Kendra and I walked/jogged around on the main road within UN Camp Charlie at 5:30am for about an hour.  When we got back about 6:30am, all the men were assembled in uniform for their morning meeting - oops!

Shower and breakfast.  Bologna sandwich, I only had french fries.  Omar gave the guys the parts of the van.  One screw is not the size requested.  Great.

Packed all our bags, then Kendra and Hermanito decided to go to the hardware store to find the right screw.  We need that van fixed!

Omar and Sue laid down for a nap while I made phone calls and did emails.  The clinic is next door and there aren't any patients, so the Doctor (Diego) came to visit for awhile.  Two hour nap afterwards.  During this time Kendra and Hermanito went to six hardware stores with no luck.  Yes, six (6) hardware stores and none had a 4inch screw.  They finally went to Russ and Sherry's up the mountain and Russ thread one for us.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Emotional Day

Walked with Kendra very early this morning.  Breakfast with both Colonels and then we prepared for our meeting with the Japanese.

Meeting with Japengcoy to basically beg them to move the last seven (7) homes for us so ACTED can begin building.  That is the only thing holding us back.  The meeting went well.  At first they said they could come out in January, then they said they would visit tomorrow to do a site visit.  Yes!  While Kendra and I were there, Sue got stuff together for our day and cleaned up the container.  She has such a servant's heart.

There are always tears in Haiti and today was my day.  Sue read Psalm 69 about drowning and being overwhelmed on the ride out to the site in our UN Truck with Hermanito and Kendra.

When we pulled up to the village, I got out of the car and walked back to the road.  I had my iPod and I just sat down and cried.  I listened to Kristian Stanfill's "Always".

Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always

I was feeling so overwhelmed.  The van broke down, things were delayed and kept changing.  The people in our village are hungry, they need hope and when we are in the country and things aren't working in their favor, it kills me.  That's why I keep coming back.  We aren't creating dependability, but when we work so hard for organizations to promise us things and then the people are waiting on us, but we are waiting on those organizations, it is so frustrating.  We are so close to some amazing things for these people and in turn sustainability for them without us.  But when Lord, when?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Day of Progress

I've had the singing bug this trip.  I love to sing and have no idea why I haven't.  I used to sing with my Mom and sisters at church and sometimes even alone.  Maybe it is the karaoke the Paraguayans are always doing.

At any rate, we've been listening to my favorite playlist on my iPod during our drives and it just makes me so happy.

Floyd (the van) has still not recovered and the parts we need won't be here until Tuesday evening.  Nothing like cutting it close to when we leave.

We are so grateful to have good friends in high places, so the Colonel allowed the Deacon to escort us around town in a UN pick up truck.  (How cool is that?!)  The weekend was fun, but we are more than ready to get back into our grove!

Headed up the mountain to our early meeting.  When we left about 6:30am, all the guys were in their formal formation for morning attendance and meetings.  It was fun to see.

Meeting at World Vision went well.  Our village is under consideration as an option for the grant proposal.  This would mean much needed funds for further agricultural and micro-enterprise opportunities for our families.

Took Kendra and Sue to the Giant supermarket.  It's a different world.  Probably one of the cleanest places in Haiti.  Much cleaner and newer than the hospitals I've seen.  Scary.

Long drive back down the mountain and to Croix-des-Bouquets.  As soon as we arrived we introduced Hermanito to the people and then gave him a tour.  I can't believe he has never been here!  Took him to the garden.  Then, a man from the community rode by on a donkey and the Deacon got really excited.  Everyone calls him Hermanito, so he was sure to get a few pictures of the guy.

We walked back toward the HELP school and clinic.  The Japanese finished the hospital demolition they were working on during my last trip and the school looks great.

The school is for first through third grades right now, but they will add a grade every year.  All the kids came to say hello.  I especially liked seeing the kids from our village.  They are adorable in their uniforms.

Spent time with Dr. B and saw Miss Coutard.  They have a guy from the US working with them for a year.  He is studying to be a doctor - so he sees some patients and teaches English at the school.  His name is Jay and he is from Illinois.  The kids kept saying his name earlier and I didn't make the connection that they were saying it because we are both white.  How funny.

Walked back to the village for a meeting with Carl from Haitian Broilers.  He came out to see our site.  We are considering a bigger chicken project... about 400 chickens eventually.

Kendra and I went back to see Dr B while Hermanito tried to help jump the Pastor's car and Sue played with the kids and rested in the truck.  She gave Jackie her sandals today since she saw how hard Jackie has been working in the garden with the Pastor.

The talk with Dr B went really well.  He gave us a heads up with some drama that was happening and had some great things to say.  I appreciate that his approach has been more hands off, but that he also helps fill us in on things we miss when we are gone or things we can't understand in terms of culture.

Back to the base for dinner in our container.  A cheeseburger with egg.  Weird diet.

Peru's camp is located next door and they had their Medal Parade Ceremony tonight.  A few of the Parengcoy officers went and we could hear everything that was happening while we played volleyball.  After the game ended, Kendra and a former sports coach played two on two with Captain Florentin and I.

We showered then later I noticed all these terrible bruises all over my arms.  I guess they are from playing volleyball.  They really hurt and I still can't figure it out because it didn't happen any of the other days.  It looked like I had gotten beat up.  Our doctor friend was concerned.

Up late again to hang out with our friends.  I was taught simple bachata dance moves by Diego.  Fun night.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Funday

Today our vehicle-less vacation continued with a day at the base.

Emails, phone calls.

Our container!  Kendra on Skype with her family.
Our bathroom.  The door says "VIP Male Bathroom".
Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

Took a nap.

Went to Mass (read my Bible the whole time).

Made lots of calls about the van parts.

Played volleyball with the guys.

Kendra keeps saying she has seen a different side of me this trip.  The fun and silly side I think is what she means.  I told her it's because I've been playing sports and have free time for once!  :).

Later, Hermanito taught us self defense moves.  Don't mess with me.

Did I mention that our little container is right next to the fenced in gun container?  We feel very safe!

Hermanito and Kendra had theology class again tonight while I helped Sue upload pictures to her facebook.  She fell asleep.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Happy Birthday, Colonel Casco!

Happy 50th Birthday, Colonel Casco!

After making the cake last night and decorating Colonel Rojas' office as a surprise, Rojas told us that the guys were getting up at 3:45am to sing Happy Birthday to him before he runs at 4am.

Kendra, Sue and I got up but went to the office instead of outside Casco's container, so we missed it!

We immediately went back to bed and got up later at 5:30am.  Went to the office and the three of us and Rojas celebrated with the birthday song and the presentation of the cake.  It was a fun moment.

So early!  Emily, Colonel Casco, Sue, Kendra
Kendra, Col Casco, Col Rojas, Emily
Back to bed until 8:30am.

Emails/Calls to organize delivery of parts from DR.  Read a few Psalms while Sue straightened my hair.

Took Colonel Casco and Colonel Rojas to birthday lunch at La Maison by the airport.  Kept saying he wants to go home for his birthday.

Back to base.  I took Sue to the weekly Saturday market.  She was excited to buy Christmas gifts and souvenirs for family members.  The people were like Mosquitos.  I helped her negotiate a few times but the people liked her and hugged her most of the time.  I liked that she knew what she wanted.

The security guards at the Paraguayan base asked us when we left if we were going alone and sent someone in to the market after us to make sure we were ok.  They are so hospitable and protective here.  I could get used to this treatment.

Rested in our container while everyone was in a meeting, then Colonel Casco called the Japengcoy (Japanese Engineering Company) to see if they could help us move the seven (7) temporary shelters so ACTED can build.  Captain Torres sent an email to them afterwards on our behalf that we actually wrote.  He really helped us understand the need for simplicity in our words when working with these engineering companies.

Spare time before the special dinner at 8pm.  Diego Lesme (the Doctor here) came over to show us a short TV interview of his Dad.  His Dad is a Pastor of a protestent church of 20,000 in Paraguay.  Everyone else here is Catholic and they only hold a Catholic Mass on the base, so we think this is why he feels an affinity to us.  Afterwards, he showed us a video of Cite Soliel (one of the most dangerous parts of Port-au-Prince) called the kitchen of hell (thats what it translates to).  Wow, the most disgusting thing ever.  An UN Brazilian officer videoed this area where they kill and skin the animals to eat.  It was totally barberic.  I couldn't watch but a few minutes.  Or maybe it's barbareic to me, but just tradition/city life to the Haitians?

Dinner with everyone in the dining hall (Yes, right after the video).  Cake presentation and of course, karaoke.  Today they are allowed to drink on base, so it got a little rowdy.  One gentleman sang us a sincere song about enjoying our presence... in English.  It was very sweet and Sue even sang part of it with him.

Colonels' Table
There were actually two birthdays!
Dancing with Captain Florentin
We left early and talked with Major Rodriguez and the Deacon in the office.  Always interesting conversation.  I must admit, this is the first day of any trip to Haiti that the trip has felt more like a vacation then work.  It is the weirdest thing.  At the same time, these friends are leaving Haiti as their year of service will be up.  They leave December 24th and the new group comes the same day.

Got to talk to my parents through Google Voice for a few minutes tonight - I loved that.  Bed by midnight.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Floyd Trouble: The Day The Van Broke Down

Today's verses were Psalm 38/39/40.

Left the base at 5:45am.  To village to unload supplies we picked up from IOM Warehouse yesterday.  Molive (pregnant lady at the village) tried to talk to me.  She is due in January.

To Mayor's office for our 8am meeting with him.  It was weird because no one else was waiting like usual.  We were completely alone.

During our down time Jose was reading his creole Bible.  I also found out his real name is Joseph Francy.  What?  Joseph?  I thought it was Jose (because that is how you say it in creole).  I learn so much.  The Mayor sent us a text just after 8am to let us know he had to go meet with the President.  Jose doesn't know how to text, so he wrote out our reply on a piece of paper and I texted it.

Back to the IOM Warehouse to pick up tents that we didn't have room for yesterday.  I did all the paperwork this time.  When Kendra drove the van around a part fell out.  I picked it up - big mistake.  It was hot!

After a small panic attack, we decided to coast back to the Paraguayan base with no brakes and no power steering since it was only 2 miles.  I jumped out of Floyd (the rolling van) a few times to move obstacles.  We gave Joseph money for a taptap back to his place since he can't go in the UN base.

Took Floyd to the "garage" on base.  I kept saying "Floyd is sick" in Spanish because I don't know how to say broke or broken.

Floyd (the van) in the garage.
Discussion of the parts. 
Everything fell out except the belt.
At this time it was only 10am.  We spent most of the day writing emails and making phone calls to find a car to use or rent.  We called six friends in Haiti and no one had a spare vehicle.  Rental was $80 a day plus more for insurance.  The average cost per day was about $200 a day when it is all said and done. Yikes.

There are two doctors at the base.  One checked Kendra's blood pressure and it was too high, so they made her lay down for awhile.  His name is Diego Lesme.  Unlike most people here, his faith reflects beliefs similar to ours as opposed to the Catholic way.  His Dad is a Pastor at a church in Paraguay with an attendence of 20,000.

About 4pm we were extremely frustrated and at the end of our rope, so we decided we needed a break.  The guys were playing volleyball and the Deacon asked if we could play too.  Susan watched, took pictures and socialized with a few men who speak English.  Kendra played two games and I played on a team that only lost one game.  I was decent enough to be invited back tomorrow.

Dinner with the two current Colonels, the new Colonel and Major Rodriguez.

Had friends over to our container again tonight to ask them if we could bake a cake tomorrow for Colonel Casco.  His 50th birthday is Saturday.  The guys let us do laundry and we sat outside and talked until 11:30pm.

This has been such a weird trip.  It's like in slow motion and you keep trying to speed up the video, but it is stuck on the slowest fast forward setting.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Embassy, Warehouse and Chickens

My family is pretty cool.  Seriously, they are amazing.

Thanksgiving Family Picture
My sister wrote me a quick email this week with a Bible verse. Matthew 25:21.  She didn't write it out, so I had to look it up and amazingly, it applied perfectly to some things I had just been thinking about and been approached about.  God works in cool ways.

Woke up to a tray of food for breakfast.  French fries, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, and cold apples.

To the US Embassy to meet a contact we met from our UNFPA meeting.  We've tried to get in before and were completely rejected.  This time we at least have a name.  We went to the window and got further than last time, but alas, still rejected.  How can US citizens not get into their own Embassy?  I understand it's a safety thing, but still.

To the IOM Warehouse.  Picked up supplies for a cholera clinic and hygiene kits for each family.  They had five mosquito nets, so we will distribute those to the pregnant and nursing mothers.  This IOM Warehouse process always takes hours.  Only two this time.  When the van was full I turned to Kendra and said, "So, we run cholera clinics now?"  We laughed because those were not the types of things we expected to get but we know a few doctors who will be happy to use the supplies.

While we were waiting, Major Rodriguez called and invited us to lunch because it is a special Paraguayan soup.  Today, 13 men from an Advanced Team from the new group of 130 arrive.  The rest will come on December 24 and our friends will all leave on the same day on the same plane the new people come in on.

By the time we left the IOM Warehouse it was lunch time.  Colonel Casco walked us in and about 40 men were in line, but they let us cut right to the front.  I'm sure some people are not enjoying our visit.  Delicious soup lunch, then we quickly headed up to Russ and Sherry's.  The plan changed so Kendra spent time doing emails there while Sue and I met with a representative from the Haitian Chicken Broilers.  It is a Jamacian organization that works solely on chicken projects, but much larger than what we can do at this time.  Carl, the representative will visit our site on Friday.

Back up the mountain so Sue and I could pick up Kendra.  Talked more with Linda Adams.

Headed down to base about 7pm.  Ate with Colonel Casco and the Colonel of the new mission who just arrived today.  On the walk to the dining hall I asked a friend if he was going to eat with us and he looked at us like "yeah right" because they are usually never invited.

Every night our friends visit, but tonight only the Deacon because no one else wants to brave the weather.  It is raining.  We usually joke with them that we would not pass inspection because our room is such a mess.

After dinner Colonel Casco kept asking if everything with our accommodations were satisfactory.  When the Deacon came, he showed us all the things Casco sent for us water, snacks, Internet password. Perfect.

It was raining a lot.  Kendra and I ran outside and brought mud back to the floor of our container.  Carlos (the Deacon) left and came back with a mop.  He mopped the whole floor.  It will be hard to leave this place after being waited on hand and foot!

Talked late even though we have to be up early. Probably a mistake.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Office Work and a Welcome for Sue

Weird day.  After all our meetings yesterday, we had lots of follow-up to do!
Kendra got up early.  I slept through breakfast and woke up at 7am.  Captain Florentin said they saved me an egg.  The egg was gone when he went back for it, so he brought me a banana smoothie, giant bologna sandwich and two containers of yogurt.  They must forget that girls don’t eat like military men.
Spent two hours working in Colonel Casco’s office, then we headed to Russ and Sherry’s to use their internet.  Spent about 4-5 hours there.  Did one load of laundry, made Macaroni and Cheese for lunch, lots of follow-up emails and phone calls.

Linda Adams, Director of Childcare International, is staying with Russ and Sherry this week, so she and Kendra caught up while I continued to work and enjoy a little down time to send emails to family and friends.
Alain from IOM called to tell us he talked to the boss of one of the people we asked for solar lights from yesterday and they are going to give our people three new lights!  This will be great for increased night security, especially for our women and children.
The time was approaching to go pick up Susan Ranney, a friend from my home church at the airport.  I refused to be late because the airport can be so hectic!  She arrived safe and sound.  While we were waiting, Kendra ran into an old Pastor friend from Flint who she was in TFCs with.  Small world, yet again.
Susan had been to Haiti in April of 2010, just a few short months after the earthquake.  Her second trip was when I came in January/February of this year to build the temporary shelters and now we are here together again.  I’m looking forward to introducing her to the families that she built the shelters for.

The Deacon (Carlos Martinez) and Sue
Back to the Paraguayan base to get her settled.  We are known as the snack center now because Major Rodriguez, the Deacon and Captain Torres all stopped by our container to talk and eat trail mix by the cup full.  Before they came by, I was teaching Susan how to say her name in Creole.  So when they came by, she introduced herself in Creole instead of Spanish – it was really cute.
We’ve been eating later so as not to disrupt the men and their routine.  The last two nights about 8pm, we head to the dining hall and get to eat alone.  I’ve enjoyed it.  Carlos Martinez, the Deacon, sat with the three of us while we ate spaghetti and told us some interesting things.  One is that every night there are always eight security guards on duty.  Also, of the 100 men here, there are 10 who have never even left the base since they arrived!  I’ve got stir crazy just staying in my container a few days – and I go out daily!
Our escort to dinner.
The Deacon came back to our container to talk theology with Kendra.  They are matching up the symbolism in Old Testament scripture with the New Testament.  While they talked, Susan rested and I finished an official “Letter of Assistance” for FAO.

The Internet here was working during the day, but of course now that I want to use it, it isn’t working again.

Listened to music, bed by 10pm.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Working Days

Up at 5am and left immediately to head to the village.  When Kendra visited on Friday, the Pastor said he needed to talk to her about a few people who were causing problems.  They want to leave too, so that makes this easier for us.
We picked up our new translator, Jose, before going to the village.  It was so nice to see him!  He caught us up on a few things too as he has been to the village 3 or 4 times to check in since we’ve been gone.  We said hello to a few people but immediately found the Pastor and spent time walking with him in the woods (toward the garden) while listening to his concerns through Jose.

The four of us came up with a plan for a short meeting.  The people who want to leave think they can take their temporary shelters too.  Wrong.
While Kendra gathered the people, I found Megine (12 or 13 year old girl) babysitting five kids.  She was cooking and had to watch small, small babies.  One was very tiny (maybe 2.5 or 3 months) and was crying and crying, probably from choking from a small charcoal fire that was burning about a foot from the bed.  The smoke even bothered me.  I picked up the baby and rushed outside for some fresh air.  As soon as we were outside, he stopped crying.  I ended up holding him the whole meeting.

I asked Kendra if I could speak because George (the President) always gets her riled up.  He is sneaky.  The Pastor started the meeting with a song, then everyone recited Psalm 23 by heart and the Pastor said a prayer.  I started the meeting by telling everyone that we loved them and would continued to pray for them no matter what, but that we head a few people want to leave.  I said if they had a better place to go, then of course we want what is best for them and their family.
I also reminded them of our agreement when they moved in (they can leave whenever they want, they have to leave the house, we will not pay for them to move, etc).  This is all in writing in a protocol document they signed with Kendra.  The final note was that if they left they could not change their minds.  They needed to be sure of their decision.
At that point we asked those who wanted to leave to raise their hands.  The two people who have been causing trouble raised their hands.  Perfect.  Thank you, Lord.
We asked them when and they said, “When I get the money to.”  I asked when that would be and they said they didn’t know.
Ok…Kendra and I decided later that we might take time to give them one trip each in the van, just to get them out since they are trouble.
When we were finished talking to them, the President was scribbling notes and started talking and talking.  We said that we want to hear the concerns of the people, but today we needed to head into town for meetings that will benefit them.  Then, Kendra, Jose and I just got up and left.  I’m tired of the attitude of the President.  It isn’t positive and isn’t community-oriented.
Dropped off Jose and his two sisters.  They came to see the site today.  He mentioned on the car ride that he wanted us to pay him at the end of the trip because he needs to save his money for rent.  He lives with his siblings and rent comes due once a year in Haiti.  We are planning to give him a shelter when our trouble leaves.  Since the Paraguayans are feeding us meals, we are going to give the eggs and limes to the people, but there really weren’t enjoy for everyone in our village so we gave them to Jose for his family when we dropped him off.  He was so happy!  It filled my heart with joy.
Straight to the UN Logistics Base for meetings.  JOTC Office, Alain at IOM, World Food Programme, IOM Protection Unit, UNFPA Office.  My favorite is always Alain at IOM because he just sits and brainstorms with us, then he’ll call us later when he thinks of another idea.  I definitely think he has our backs.
Stopped at the UN market inside the Log Base for an ice cream bar for lunch.
Back to the Paraguayan Base to send an email and then out again to Russ and Sherry’s to say hi and to pick up the printer from their house.  Sat on their balcony and caught up.  I really like them.  They are spending retirement here – Russ working on construction and small jobs while Sherry uses her gift of hospitality for teams and sews items for the orphanages she works with.
Russ told an interesting story about a US lady speaking with a Haitian in English.  She was trying to get him to think critically about solving a very minor problem.  Apparently she kept pushing and pushing until he finally said something along the lines of…Please stop!  I don’t know how to think that way.  In school I was only taught to repeat, not to solve problems or to think things through.
Back to Paraguay.  Every Monday night there is a small market similar to the one for all the UN military that happened on Sunday.  A small number of Haitian vendors are chosen and the Paraguayans don’t even have to leave their base to shop.  Kendra got a few things for the boys and since we were shopping at the end everyone wanted to sell me old shoes for that final sale.  Very interesting.  The Paraguayans were making fun of me.  Some of the officers were going out to dinner for another officer’s birthday.  We noticed that more people greet us and make small talk when the officers aren’t around.  There is definitely a pecking order.

Showers in Haiti always make you feel extra clean because of all the swear and dirt.  Dinner with only the Deacon.  They call him Hermanito, which in Spanish means “Little Brother”, his name is Carlos Martinez.
Talked late, then bedtime.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


The Luna guys had to wake up very early to catch the bus to head home as the kids have school this week.  I got up too to pack.  The bus left at 8am - they just made it!
Kendra and I had breakfast at the Paraguayan base with the Catholic Deacon and Captain Florentin.  They gave us a heads up that the two Colonels were going to invite us to stay the week there.  The US Embassy sent out a safety reminder and when they found out the place we were staying didn't have armed guards, they insisted.
Met with the Colonels in Col Rojas' office.  We went back and forth with them about staying and came to an understanding.  This is actually a sweet deal for us because we get free food, they've agreed to let Susan and Omar stay when they get here, the location is closer to town, and we can come and go as we please.
We were going to stay at Russ and Sherry's house where we stayed last trip.  Everything would have been great there too, but for a few days we would be outside in a tent.  We are so grateful for the friendship of our overprotective friends.  Another reason we believe they have asked us to stay is so that they can connect us with the advanced team that is coming Tuesday night from the new group.  Our friends leave December 23, but 13 people from the new team are coming to observe before they take over.
Packed up our container, had lunch, and then the Deacon came to talk with Kendra about theology.  It is a conversation they recently started when a group of them visited the Luna family in the DR.  This means I took a nap and wow, what a nap it was!  
Got up and they asked us to take a walk while they moved our stuff to a new container.  What service - I could get used to this hospitality!  Kendra and I walked on the common road between all the different countries' bases and by the time we got back all our stuff had been moved and the new place was set up.
A few guys were playing volleyball and the net was held up between two giant trucks.  It was funny.  Our new place is located on the outskirts of all the containers right next door to the "gun shed".  This is where they house all their weapons.  Pistols, machine guns, rifles, you name it.  It is the only container that is fenced and padlocked.
Got things in order for tomorrow and went to Catholic Mass (only church service held on base).

Had dinner in the dining hall container.  We sit at the smaller table with the Colonels.  The protocol is really fascinating.  After being here a few days we've picked up a lot about the pecking order.  Also, when a Colonel is talking to the group, people must be silent.  If one of the two Colonels is talking to us at a meal, no one can approach us until he is finished.  Our friends who aren't at least Majors (there are only 3 Majors on base) can't sit with us during meals unless specially invited ahead of time (which is basically never).  This is only true in the presence of Colonels.  Very good stuff!
Did you know there is time out for adults?  In the UN military there is a spot they actually send people on base to sit..for hours.  Hmm.
Since many Paraguayans have become personal friends with the Luna family and I, I feel much safer here than the other places we've stayed.  They are so close with the Lunas that many of them have stayed at their home in Jarabacoa for anywhere from a long weekend to a week.
Our friends let us use the administrative office to send a few emails until the Internet is fixed tomorrow.
Today was a bit slow (for Haiti!) but tomorrow is Monday and that's when the hard work and long days begin!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Day with a View

Being on a military base means waking up at military time.  They were ready for us for breakfast when we woke up.  We were not ready.
Breakfast in Colonel Rojas' container office.  Today Colonel Rojas and Colonel Casco are going to take us to a special place up the mountain to see a view of Port-au-Prince.  These are the head honchos, highest ranking officers of the Paraguayan company here in Haiti.  We took two trucks and split up - Kendra, Andersen, Colonel Causco, a driver and myself.  Colonel Rojas and the others in another truck.  We left about 7:30am during the morning meeting. 
It took hours to get up the mountain.  The view was spectacular!  From where we were the airport, UN Base - Camp Charlie and more were visible.  The ocean looked beautiful with the backdrop of the mountains.  Haiti actually looked calm even though I know better from being down there in the thick of things.

When Colonel Rojas said it was time to go, everyone moved.  A few minutes down the road the Paraguayans wanted to stop for a coffee and chepa break.  Pulling over on the side of the road, everyone got out to sip coffee and enjoy chepa (a typical Paraguayan bread made of corn and eggs).
Back down the mountain and to the base around 1:30pm.  Long drive.  Lunch of the same thing we had for dinner and breakfast - weird fried meat, empanadas and sopa (a dry corn bread made with onions and cheese).
While walking to the market, we were heading towards the entrance to the Paraguayan area and saw Chris (Pastor Rod's son) and Dr Suarez.  It was the weirdest thing!  Dr Suarez has friends here and he came to pick up some medicines for his free clinics.  It is always fun seeing people outside the typical places you see them.  This is also one of those times that the world feels a little smaller.
Each Saturday there is a market inside the base.  Vendors are chosen and sell a variety of things to the different UN military personnel near the entrance.  It is huge!  These people are good!  Most of the vendors know Spanish and with most of the UN here speaking Spanish, they make out great.
Captain Florentin escorted us around.  His assignment this weekend is to stay with us.  I had all my creole phrases ready for the market such as:
  • I don't need it.
  • I don't like it.
  • How much?
These were very useful and the Haitians would say Wow! You speak creole. It was interesting.
One guy spoke English and asked me a bunch of questions.  Then he asked me where I work and I told him I am a volunteer.  He called me a liar.  If he only knew the money I have personally (with some help too!) put into my trips here and the work it has been.

I helped Kendra with one shoe sale and a guy tried to give us back a fake US $5 bill.  He wouldn't exchange it (I know that in creole too) so I shoved it back in his apron and asked for another.  He ran somewhere to exchange it and brought us back a real one.  We were very skeptical after that and only paid with exact change.

The boys loved the market.  There were so many things - Haiti souvenirs, perfume, watches, used clothes and toys, sunglasses, and lots (and lots) of tennis shoes.  A few things still had tags, but probably 97% was used.  I couldn't believe all the used stuff the UN people were buying.  It was like Goodwill, but the quality was much higher here.
I bought one thing.   A MINUSTAH t-shirt (looks like the official shirts) for $3.  The tag even says "Made in Haiti".  People couldn't understand why that made me so happy, but it did.
Walked back to the base about 4pm when the market was closing.  Relaxed while the boys played soccer.  Talked with the Deacon on the base and then Colonel Rojas got out his laptop.  The two of us sat outside his office while he showed me pictures of his family and video of his daughters at their dance recital in Paraguay.
Dinner was at 8pm and it was another special event.  I didn't catch all the details but that meant steak for dinner - wow!  The boys were sent to eat at another table so we sat at the head table with the two Colonels and Major Rodriguez.  Afterwards there was...karaoke!  (Their favorite thing on special occasions, which means it feels like we are only ever here on special occasions.)
I always get asked to sing, then the second song was New York, New York by Frank Sinatra.  My first thought was - Wow, there is a Spanish version of this?  Oh no, the microphone was passed to me and the words on the screen were in English.  I was sitting between Colonel Causco and Major Rodriguez, so I made Rodriguez try to sing all the parts I didn't know.
After awhile they stopped the music and Colonel Rojas made a presentation to us.  The boys got blue hats, Samuel a shirt, and Kendra and I got plates with the Paraguayan crest on it.  After first visiting their base in March, I can't believe it is December, that I have known them this long, and that now they are leaving!
A fun night had by all.  Everyone is in good spirits because they are leaving soon.  In bed by midnight. That military wake-up call is going to come too soon!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Medal Parade Ceremony for Parengcoy

Woke up this morning to have breakfast and devotions with the group.  It was really good.  Mike shared about surrendering ourselves to God's plan.  Then Erin Hoffman shared her testimony and it helped me fit together the random pieces I've heard of their decision to come to Haiti as a family.
After breakfast, Laurel and Cassandra went to teach English at CAD (the orphanage).  I walked back to Mary's trailer with her to help her sort receipts and do finances, but when we reached the door, Pastor Rod was driving by and waved me in to the truck to go for a ride.  We dropped off the team at a playground to set the foundation for a basketball court.
Pastor Rod and I drove back to the main road and ran into an old translator (Daniel) who we gave a ride to.  We drove to Pastor Rod's new place to drop off wood and four Haitians were working on the security wall.  I finally got to go inside and it is gorgeous.  It is a mansion with many rooms.  Pastor gave me the grand tour and has been joking about me being their administrator for the past few days.  He even announced it at dinner last night... "Hey everyone, I have an announcement to make. Emily has agreed to come back and coordinate things for us for 6 months.  Let's give her a hand." and everyone started clapping.  We had a good laugh about it.  Well today, during the tour he said "and this room with the view will be for our administrator." "This will be our administrator's carport."
The view from the balcony on the second floor is breathtaking.  Their new place is a little closer to the border, so they have a view (of the saltwater lake and mountains) that I've never seen in Haiti.   It is easily one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen.  I wish I had my camera, but I am also glad to have truly enjoyed the view.
We went up to the roof and sat for a few minutes.  The three of us joined hands and Daniel prayed for us.  It was a beautiful moment with a surreal backdrop.  Chris (Pastor Rod's son) came up to ask a business question and sat with us for a few minutes.
When we walked outside, one of the workers wasn't wearing any shoes.  He was hauling blocks in a wheelbarrow across sharp rocks and mixing concrete by!  What??  We measured his feet to try to find him some boots.
Kendra called, so we are heading back to the compound so I can pack.  I'm not ready to leave.
Packed, talked with Mary, helped Laurel sort dresses.  Said goodbye to everyone.  Since the Lunas stayed at the Paraguayan base last night, the Paraguayans said they are "responsible" for them this weekend and so Major Rodriquez and Captain Florentin escorted them to the village and then to pick me up at Victory Compassion (VC).
Two of the boys and Samuel rode with the Paraguayans while Kendra, Nathan, and I rode in Floyd (the van).  It was nice to catch up with Kendra and share stories before we get to the base.
Warm welcome at the base.  The family and I are staying in the "hospital" container...on very comfortable mini-hospital beds.  We arrived late afternoon, so we got ready for the 5pm ceremony.
Sat in the front row.  Very official.  People from each country were invited including high UN officials. About 200 people present.  The ceremony was to celebrate the work of the first group from Paraguay as their 1 year term ends December 23.  A new group of 130 will arrive that same day.

During the ceremony, Samuel represented NET and presented them with a plaque.  It was at the end and a little funny because everything else was done in such precision.  The Colonel was so excited that he stopped and asked the officials to stand and take a picture with us... in the middle of the ceremony! (We are hoping to get a copy soon!)
A short reception followed with food and the Visit Paraguay video.  They are very proud of their country.  After, they showed a video they made of their work and we were in it.  Lots of friends took lots of pictures.  The Commissioner (not really, that's just what we call him because I don't know his name) gave me his hat to put on and Kendra was given someone else's, then everyone wanted a picture with us.

Kendra and Samuel went to put the boys down and I stayed close to Major Rodriguez and Captain Florentin has received special security training, so no one messes with him.  Captain Rotella got out karaoke and after a few minutes Major Rodriquez decided it was time to escort me back.  I am grateful for his friendship and protection!
Captain F and Major spent time with us in our "hotel", talking about a variety of things in Spanish.  I deciphered a few things and Kendra helped me with the rest.  Bedtime by 11pm.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Favorite Day

Can you believe it's December?  I can't. That's crazy to me. This year has flown by and it has been 90 degrees here every day.

Today has easily been one of my favorite days in Haiti.  It is always a great day when you are serving next to people you have come to love and adore.  I'm not sure I could have survived the difficulty of these Haiti trips without my dear friends at Victory Compassion.  They have been a refuge and strength for us as friends in Christ.

The team that is here went to unbuild (yes, unbuild) two homes that Victory Compassion (VC) put up over the summer. This place was given three but have only been using one.  Because of an emergency, the houses will be rebuilt in a different spot so 34 Haitian orphans will not be homeless.  The orphans were being taken care of by a husband and wife who changed their mind after his mother tried to slit the throat of one of the children.  Yes, she is crazy.  They had to move immediately, so it was a work of God that the team couldn't put together their playground for CAD (another orphanage, because the playground they were installing is stuck in customs).  This allowed them the time and focus to help these children in a different capacity.
Laurel and I decided to go with Pastor Rod this morning to drop off Nick at the airport with translator, Frank. I met Nick when he was in Haiti with a team in June, then he came back from August until today as staff at VC.  When I met him we ended up talking about a girl he was upset about.  I told him I was going to mail him a book in July when I get home about relationships.  Well, I never ended up sending it to him in Arizona and that’s a good thing because he was here anyways.  I brought it for him this trip.
First, we stopped for propane, then at my favorite pit stop - the Marassa Market. The Victory Compassion folks know the owner well too. We bought a variety of groceries and discussed possible toys with him. Yesterday, Pastor Rod got a call that someone donated $3,000 for toys for Haitian kids for Christmas. Amazing.
Headed to the airport to drop off Nick. He is only 19 and even during my short time with him during this trip, I could see a huge change in him.  Pastor Rod gave him a great word in the giant box truck and we all hugged him goodbye.
Afterwards, the four of us went to pick up Frank's new furniture. He lives in one of the houses that Love A Child built near the border and now that he has been working for VC, he has enough money for furniture.  We went to Delmas 2 near Jean Jacque Blvd to a very small store to pick it up.  The pick-up went quickly and I was relieved to get out of the area... a little too congested for my liking.  Pastor Rod even told Laurel to put her camera away by telling her she could have her Kodak moment later.
One of the reasons I liked today so much was just riding in the box truck with Pastor Rod and Laurel.  He is a true visionary and it is fun to go back and forth with him.  Pastor has some incredible stories and words from God.  He is in the middle of a 40 day fast and has had some mind boggling insight into Haiti and his plans for their team.  In January, he will take over as the Director of World Missions for the Victory Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Check out these statistics... At their church 35% of the budget is for missions.  They support 200 missionaries worldwide and have over 1100 Bible Institutes.
Pastor Rod also shared some other facts:
  • Did you know if you eat 3 meals a day for 3 weeks you are among the top 15% of the world.
  • Most of the world lives on $2 a day, Haitians live - on average - on $200 a year.
  • 15% of the world holds 80% of the wealth.
Starting in January, their team will move to a new place and start a few new projects. Everything is not finalized, but the plans are exciting!
We headed to Croix-des-Bouquets (CdB) to meet up with the team building the two dorms.  It was only 1pm, but they had started at 5am, drove into town, took down both buildings, drove to CdB and put them both up in that time.
A Spanish lady will be the head of the orphanage and she explained to me their plans while Laurel played with the kids.  Someone gave them 1 coke to share between all of them and they didn't fight. They shared like loving brothers and sisters.
Dropped off Frank's furniture and headed back to the compound.  We rested for 45 minutes then a group of us headed to another Kidz Club.  This is Laurel's favorite place to do them, she said it is because this village is like the inner city kids.  Even the Moms come out to watch the show like it is soap opera hour.
Of all the Kidz Clubs I’ve seen, these kids are the most into it.  They sing all the songs and do the motions, the games are very competitive between the boys and girls (they let me lead it today with a translator and a fight between 2 small girls broke out).
Had dinner with the team, helped Mary do dishes, took a shower.
I was laying in bed in Mary's trailer and Laurel came over, so I got up and the three of us played cards.  It was my family's version of the game Peanuts but at a MUCH slower pace and Mary called it Heaven while Laurel called it Nerds.
I've been having a little anxiety about this trip, so Mary shared a verse with me - 2 Timothy 1:7.  I’ve heard it plenty of times, but sometimes you just need a reminder.